Brew Review: Russian River Damnation Batch 23

Russian River Damnation Batch 23, Tripel aged with Oak Chips, 11% ABV

Pardon me for throwing a rare-in-DC beer into the mix, but I feel like it’s my duty to warn you about Russian River’s Damnation Batch 23. Damnation is RR’s Belgian Strong Pale Ale and quite delicious; now, Batch 23 is Damnation turned into a Tripel with oak chips thrown into the mix. Squirrel first let me know about Batch 23 after she found it at Monk’s Kettle in SF. We both really like Damnation and were excited about trying it, but the price point was a little on the high side ($25) for a 12 oz bottle. Luckily, we found it at her local-SF Whole Foods for $9 and socked it away for a week or two. We were so, so excited for this beer, especially since I believe that oak chips/barrels always benefit a beer…

… but we were massively let down by it. Maybe we were too excited? Maybe we should have aged it longer/shorter? I don’t know, but we weren’t impressed. The funny thing was that neither she nor I said anything definitive until about 1/4 of the way down the glass. I don’t remember who said it first, but the other instantly said something along the lines of, “Oh my God, I thought I was crazy for thinking the same thing!”

Pour: It poured a gold color with a white head, which is similar to normal Damnation. This beer had a lot of carbonation, which sneaked up on me — I had poured the beer with a thin head, yet the head kept growing and growing like those fireworks called ‘Black Snakes’.

Aroma: The beer had a sweet smell to it and came off more mellow than the normal damnation. The sad news for me: I couldn’t really smell much oak. This was a bad sign to me…

Taste: For me, it tasted very, very similar to normal Damnation. It had a little buttery taste followed by some sour and, much like the smell, I didn’t get much oak in the taste.

Body: Damnation Batch 23 is very carbonated out of the bottle; however, it was pretty smooth (buttery taste related) and somewhat lighter than expected due to the high alcohol.

Overall impression: Definitely not worth $25 and might not be worth the $9 I paid for the bottle; however, I don’t want you to be scared away from trying it. I just want to caution you not to overspend because I found it to be very disappointing. (So much so that when I visited their brewpub I avoided it. In hindsight though, I feel like I have committed a cardinal beer-drinking sin — not giving a beer a second chance, especially when it is offered fresh. Now, I will rectify that and, when I do, update this with my findings.) Until then, I’ll give it a simple “Meh.”

— Shintern1909

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